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November 1, 2011

Churches offer a chance to thrive


In recent years, a vast amount of public money has been spent trying to regenerate some of the country’s poorest communities.  Time limited and project based, all too often the impact of these initiatives is transient – disappearing altogether when the regeneration bandwagon moves on.  For some reason this investment seems to by-pass local groups that already have long established roots and who are committed to being there for the long haul.  Surely it make more sense for these ‘local anchors’ to be the central focus of regeneration activity. Organisations like the local church




THE Church of Scotland has announced an ambitious plan aimed at regenerating eight of the country’s poorest areas.

The Kirk’s Chance to Thrive scheme will see churches reconfigured as community spaces, complete with facilities to benefit everyone living in the area.

Five of the eight churches involved are in Glasgow and the others will be in Larkhall, Stirling and Dundee.

Church officials selected the eight areas from 19 applications from around Scotland.

The pilot project is expected to last five years and is intended to help communities bring about changes to their area, rather than relying on agencies to impose change from outside.

If successful, the scheme will be rolled out to other areas around Scotland.

The Right Rev David Arnott, Moderator of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, said: “Despite the massive public investment of recent years, many of our poorest communities a generation ago tragically remain our poorest communities today.

“Particularly in the current economic climate, a different approach is needed.

“Over the last decade the Church of Scotland has doubled its commitment to Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods.

“Through Chance to Thrive we are well placed to play our part in the transformation of a number of these areas.”

In Glasgow, St Mark’s in Drumchapel, Tron St Mary by the Red Road flats, Cranhill Parish Church, and Maryhill Parish Church are involved in the scheme.

Castlemilk East Parish Church and Castlemilk West Parish Church will work together in the hope that within five years, both will be united in a new building.

The Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, who organises the Kirk’s work in deprived areas, said: “In many of the post-war housing schemes, churches provided the first community facilities, helping to create and support the community, and the churches are committed to remaining there even when others walk away.

“Over the past 10 years we have learnt some critical lessons, including the importance of starting small and focusing on the local. We also know that real change comes about when people who live in local communities are really listened to and supported to become the architects of change.

“This is not primarily about buildings – it is about people and their aspirations for the places where they live.

“It is about a model of regeneration which recognises the importance of interdependence, that in order to build places where we all want to live everyone needs to be involved.”

The scheme will be launched at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow evening at an event hosted by Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Capital Investment.

Drumchapel is already benefiting from a regeneration scheme linked to Chance to Thrive.

The congregation at St Mark’s offered to host Argo Boxing Club, after the club was left homeless when the council demolished its base at the Argo Centre.

The Drumchapel-based club has produced both Scottish and European champions, but would not have been able to continue if St Mary’s had not offered to house it.

St Mark’s minister The Rev Audrey Jamieson said: “When I came here as minister I never thought the church and a boxing club could have a partnership.

“But I can see that the trainers teach the young lads discipline and give them a role model to look up to and it’s stopping them getting into trouble and fighting on the streets. The boxing club has totally transformed our church hall, and sorted out the plumbing and electrics as well as giving it a lick of paint.

“This demonstrates to us the talents and possibilities in Drumchapel when we all come together to meet the needs of our community.

“We hope the Chance to Thrive project will help us take a huge step forward with this.”